13 Reasons Why is a Netflix show that follows the life of Hanna Baker, a young girl, her suicide and the aftermath on her family and friends, as she leaves 13 tapes for the people she feels are responsible, explaining why and how she was pushed to that point.
It was adapted in 2017 from a novel of the same name and has gone on to build a devoted following ever since its first season. As a series that tells the story of a girl’s suicide in the ‘whydunnit’ form, it keeps the viewers attached closely to the story and characters from start to finish. I am a living testimony of this, as I finished the first season in a single sitting with just a few breaks for tissues and snacks. It smacks the heart very hard, as the struggles of a young adult are depicted quite correctly on screen for the first time. The accurate depiction could sometimes be soul-crushing, leaving one with so many emotions and a heavy state of mind, with little time (10 seconds) in between episodes to deal with the bags of emotions it throws at you, while looking forward to whyHannaBakerDunnit in the 13 episode first season which was really addictive.
The most devastating part, which is also a testimony of its genuine storytelling and portrayal, would be the bloody bath suicide scene which viewers had to watch without prior warning. This mentioned elements which serves as a plus for the genuine storytelling, sadly has been seen by professionals as trigger for further suicides it could lead the viewers (mostly made up of young adults ) into.
This criticism, partly saying the series promoted, simplified and sensationalized suicide, forced the producers (led by Netflix) into changes going into the second season in 2019. These changes included short awareness videos made by the cast discussing mental health, suicide and seeing a professional which played at the beginning of episodes, larger social media campaign on the same topic of mental health and a little bit of education on suicide directly added to the storylines of the second season.
According to a study recently released, there was a spike in suicide rate around the time the first season of 13 Reasons Why was released in 2017. It says suicide among US boys ages 10 to 17 surged in the month after the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” premiered in March 2017. Funny enough, the trend was found in boys and not even girls, as the show was based on. Men like to feel macho and hate to seek help when need be, due to fear of stigmatization for watching a ‘sissy’ show like 13 Reasons Why or for even having problems at all in the first place.
I teared up while watching 13 Reasons Why as I mentioned, not little, but a lot. Most especially, a scene where the male lead character Clay (Dylan Minnette), who is a friend to the deceased says, “It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow”. I am human, I am happy the message got to me, I am glad I freed myself and had a friend back then to dissect the show’s rawness, positives and shortcomings with.
The concluding part of the report goes thus, “The release of 13 Reasons Why was associated with a significant increase in monthly suicide rates among U.S. youth aged 10 to 17 years. Caution regarding the exposure of children and adolescents to the series is warranted.” In what could also be a witch-hunt, it would be dumb to ignore this terrifying trend, especially in the case of young people, mental health and death.
A friend asked me recently, “How’s your mental health in general?”, during a chat shortly after asking me how I was doing and what I was up to. On reading the chat, I found it funny as hell, but I decided to answer in all honesty. Thankfully I was doing well at that moment and had nothing to hide. A question like that shouldn’t be seen as an insult or child’s play when asked is my point because even without any problems in my life at that time, it made me feel safe and rest assured that I had someone to talk to when need be, which is what we all need as ‘superman’ humans from time to time.
According to CNN, Netflix said in a statement on Tuesday, “This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”
As much as how the second season was deemed unnecessary, 13 Reasons Why would still be returning for a third season. Hopefully, with more measures taken to fight suicide among teens. And one more hope; that it would be the final season.
For those going through one problem or the other,
try to make sure you go out looking for help in the right place. It is not easy, but being a kid again through the sensitivity and vulnerability is worth it. Also, let us all look out for someone we feel isn’t doing too well. There are always signs, if we look beyond ourselves, interests and rewards.
IT HAS TO GET BETTER. THE WAY WE TREAT EACH OTHER AND LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER. IT HAS TO GET BETTER SOMEHOW.